March is Heart Health Month, but maintaining a healthy heart should be a daily priority. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. The causes of a diseased heart are not just physical, but psychological as well. Common military stressors may include wear and tear of the daily operational demands, threat of injury or loss of a friend in combat, worry over passing an advancement exam and making rank, the demands of parenthood, or the responsibilities of caring for a patient or loved one while also coping with your own personal stress and additional job demands. When stress devolves into depression, the risk of heart disease goes up. In a study featured in the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies' Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers found individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had an elevated heart rate during sleep, putting them at higher risk for heart disease. An abstract of the study is available online.
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